The Linebacker Lounge to go non-smoking

South Bend is a city with a rich history, from the establishment of Notre Dame in 1842 to Henry Studebaker starting his company just 10 years later. But one business that's withstood the test of time is making a pretty drastic change.

The Linebacker Lounge on South Bend Ave. and Edison Road will no longer allow smoking starting Aug. 18. The bar which has been in South Bend since 1962 has had a long history and is one of the staples in this city. This on the heels of the smoking ban which was voted down by a 5-4 margin, due to the fact Valerie Schey changed her vote in opposition of the smoking ban, even though she was a sponsor of the bill originally.

However, the owner of The 'Backer is taking matters into her own hands because of her health concerns after working at the bar since 1979.

"I've never been a smoker and I get bronchitis at least twice a year," Elwanda Delinski, Owner of The Linebacker Lounge said. "I have all of the smoke I'm hacking up whenever I'm here, especially for long hours. People go outside to use their cell phones and I don't see why they can't go out for a cigarette."

While some of her employees do smoke on the job, she says the change has prompted some of them to try and quit smoking and enjoy a healthier work environment.

"I'm very happy about it," Aaron Frucci, bartender at The Linebacker Lounge said. "It's going to save on my health and it is tough trying to work with people blowing smoke in your face."

Those who opposed the ban had a fear of finance if they could not allow smoking in their establishment. But for The 'Backer, they're hoping for financial gains. The Centers for Disease Control say only 17.3 percent of 18-24 year olds smoke (down from 21.8 percent in 2009) so Delinski is hopeful the new smoke-free environment will attract more Notre Dame students.

"We'll be the same old Linebacker," Delinski said. "People tell me they love it in here but they said they'll be here every day if we go to non-smoking."

The fear of losing customers isn't on the minds of Delinski or her employees.

"I believe in the idea that for every one you lose, you'll gain five," Frucci said. "There are some people out there who don't smoke and like to go out and enjoy a good night with friends and don't want to deal with smelling bad because of people that do smoke."

"I can see the concern but your regulars are kind of like family," Delinski said. "A lot of out of towners for the football games but the local people really enjoy the games too. They're not going to stay away during home games because they can't smoke inside."

On the whole, Delinski says she has received all positive feedback from her patrons.

"People still want to socialize, drink and eat, so they'll adjust," Jim Thornburg, who has been going to The Linebacker Lounge since he was a sophomore at Notre Dame in 1962 said. "It will be interesting to see how the football crowd handles it but people will adjust to it. You don't smoke when you sleep."

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